Two weeks after Conor McGregor relinquished his featherweight crown in the face of a potential 10-month hiatus, the featherweight division enjoyed its biggest night of 2016 at UFC 206.
Max Holloway captured the interim championship, guaranteeing himself a shot at undisputed champion Jose Aldo in 2017. Holloway became the first fighter to finish former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis to earn his 10th consecutive victory.
The burgeoning mega star now has the fifth-best win streak in UFC history. Holloway’s big night came after the new favorite for Fight of the Year, a riveting battle between Cub Swanson and Dooho Choi.
Considered the future of the featherweight division, Choi showed off his chin, toughness and durability against a veteran Swanson, whose performance demanded respect from a division he’s been contending in for almost a decade.
Many have declared their disappointment in McGregor’s disappearance from the featherweight landscape for such an extended period. But a champion must defend his crown.
With the championship dilemma finally sorted out and a slew of new contenders ready to rise, 2017 could be quite a year for the division.
And, who knows, McGregor could always get back in the mix when he returns.
These are the UFC 206 Talking Points
More from UFC 206: Full results | Post-fight bonuses | Holloway claims interim belt, calls out Aldo | Cowboy gets walkoff KO, Swanson, Gastelum also win | Cirkunov, Aubin-Mercier among prelim winners at UFC 206 | Vannata kicks way to victory in FIGHT PASS prelims
Backstage interviews: Max Hollway, Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, Kelvin Gastelum, Emil Meek, Lando Vannata
Octagon interviews: Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson and Dooho Choi
UFC FIGHT PASS subscribers: Replay the first three bouts here | Order UFC 206 digital replay now!
The sharp aim of Holloway now pointed at Aldo
Max Holloway has been desperate for a fight with Jose Aldo for well over a year now. When the former champ-turned-current champ lost to McGregor, Holloway wanted his crack at Aldo to earn a rematch with McGregor.
Aldo ended up getting paired with Frankie Edgar and the two never crossed paths. Holloway is convinced Aldo has been ducking him.
But there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Aldo is now the champion and he said he will defend the title. Holloway earned that shot with the win over Pettis and it could come as early as February.
But there’s a catch.
“I already had to give up Thanksgiving for this fight and my birthday,” Holloway said. “It’s hard to find the guy. Like I said, ‘Hashtag -- where’s Jose Waldo?’ I don’t want to give up my son’s birthday and Christmas for Feb. 11 and this guy don’t show up. This guy as a knack for not showing up to the fights.”
Cerrone headkicks way to fourth straight at 170
Brown took four monster kicks to the head but the fifth put him down.
Cerrone is looking to get back inside the Octagon in a few weeks when the UFC heads to Denver, Colorado. Cowboy is always looking to rack up the fights and he’s doing quite a job winning them. The former lightweight contender has now won 12 of his last 13 overall and four straight at welterweight.
Now just one win away from tying Michael Bisping’s record for most wins in UFC history (20), Cerrone is likely a win or two away from securing another title shot. This time at 170 pounds.
Swanson-Choi will go down as one of best ever
UFC President Dana White called Swanson vs. Choi the Fight of the Year on Twitter and the boss couldn’t have said it better. Swanson accepted the challenge of the young Korean star and shut him down, taking a unanimous decision victory in what was a back-and-forth epic.
Swanson was almost an afterthought going into his matchup with the Korean Superboy, who was being heralded as the next big thing.
“I feel like if I start declining in my performances then I shouldn’t do it anymore. I feel like after 13 years I’m doing everything possible to get better and be better,” Swanson said. “My last two fights before this one I had a specific gameplan. The things Frankie Edgar exposed in me, I fixed.
“And then this fight made me think about my Max Holloway fight and that loss. I was challenging myself a lot in there and being able to showcase my skills once again makes me very happy.”
Choi may have lost the fight but he gained the respect and admiration of the entire fight community. His toughness and determination to win is the stuff of legend. The future remains bright for the Korean Superboy, who vowed to train even harder for his next battle.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC